NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 25, 2005
DAN PASSE: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the last few 2005 Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup teleconferences. Thank you for joining us at this special time. One housekeeping note as we head back to Atlanta, this week's NEXTEL Wake-Up Call will take place on Friday, October 28th at 11 a.m. in the media center. The guest will be Greg Biffle. Today we're joined by Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Roush Racing Ford, and winner of the 2005 NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge. Mark, as you know, is part of the second Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup. He is currently in 7th place in the 10-race competition, 140 points behind the leader with 4 races to go.Mark has had some very strong runs in the Chase so far, including a win at Kansas and three top fives and four top tens. Mark has had a long and storied history in Nextel Cup competition with more than 600 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races starts and 35 career wins. Atlanta has been pretty successful for Mark, where he started there 39 times with 2 wins, 11 top fives and 19 top tens. Now, Mark, you finished fourth in the March Atlanta race. You've spoken many times this season about your team, how they're your heroes and how you really enjoy working with them. How do you think that everybody is going to come together as this Chase is winding down?
MARK MARTIN: I think they've been coming together, you know. It looks to me like we have pretty much peaked when we hoped to do it. We've been knocking out top fives and top tens, and I'm proud of these guys. I couldn't be happier with the opportunity to work with such great people that have such a strong commitment to, you know, to winning.
DAN PASSE: Now we just have a little bit of time here with Mark today because he's testing at Texas, but let's open it up to our callers.
Q. Good afternoon, Mark.
MARK MARTIN: Hey.
Q. You always talk about, especially this year, the loyalty of the team towards you. Why do you think that they are that way towards you? Is it because of the loyalty you give back to them?
MARK MARTIN: I'm not really sure. I mean, you know, I guess I'm just lucky. I can't be -- I don't know if they respect, you know. I'm not the most fun. I can't be the most fun driver in the world to work with. I mean, I'm not a comedian. I put a lot of emphasis on effort and not a lot of emphasis on having fun. So maybe they respect my work ethic and how bad I want it and the respect that I give them. They have earned my respect to the highest degree, and I try to treat them with the kind of respect that they deserve.
Q. Do you mind reminding us of your initial feelings or opinions about this idea of the Chase for the Championship when you heard about it, and then comment on how you feel about it as you're two winds down, if that's any different or changed.
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, I hated the Chase, the idea of the Chase. I was sick in my stomach to think that we would make, you know, changes in a historic format for the sake of entertainment. I think I was wrong. I think I've made that clear to everyone that, you know, after the first -- you know, at the banquet in 2004 I gave (fans?), you know, Brian and NASCAR an apology for being wrong.
Q. What specifically do you think it does well? Why do you think it's successful?
MARK MARTIN: Well, I think it's exciting and more interesting for the fans, and that translates into health for the sport that we love.
Q. And how has it changed things for the drivers?
MARK MARTIN: I don't know.
Q. I mean, is it more exciting and more interesting for the drivers as well?
MARK MARTIN: Probably not the ones that don't make it. You'd have to check with them. I've made it every year, both years, so I don't know. It's been good for me.
Q. Mark, I was wondering if your team had any plans to test at Homestead. Obviously, now with the hurricane and all the damage, there's definitely not testing this week and there may or may not be availability at all before the race, if that would affect your team at all?
MARK MARTIN: You know, we had plans to. But if nobody can, then nobody will. It's just how it is. I didn't realize that, you know, there would be a problem next week. But we'll deal with it.
Q. Do you think that that track will be particularly a problem, not testing, because there has not been a previous race there this season, or will it be because most teams have not had a chance to test there and it will be the same for everyone?
MARK MARTIN: You know, we're all professionals. We all go to these racetracks, different tracks every week. It will be fine. We did test our truck down there, and that was the main thing. We're going to run the truck, the Busch car and the Cup car, so everything will be fine. Look forward to it. I'm expecting to test; but if we don't, we don't.
Q. Mark, after you won your last race, I must have had 100 phone calls from people wanting to know why you didn't do the burnout. I know you've talked about this before. I promised them the next time I talked to you I would ask you about that. Can you redefine that so we're correct in that with your fans.
MARK MARTIN: Sure. Burnouts are for juveniles and for the kids. You didn't ever see, you know, Dale Earnhardt doing burnouts. There were a few spins through the grass, and that's about it. Bobby Allison, Daryl Waltrip, Richard Petty.
I'm old-school, and Rusty is, too. Last time I saw Terry Labonte win, he just rode it right over to Victory Lane after he won as well. So that's just not our style. My luck, I'd wind up with the same engine parts in my car in the next race and they'd break. So it's just not what I do. I'm old-school. It's pretty entertaining to watch these young kids do them, though. They put on a heck of a show.
Q. It's kind of like spiking the ball in the end zone and dancing. You don't think they should be doing it that way?
MARK MARTIN: Oh, I didn't say that at all. I don't think an old man should do it, you know? That's all. I'd say if, you know...I don't know. I just don't think that the old guys should because they never did before. All I'd be doing is copying the kids.
Q. Got it. You were optimistic this weekend. You said, "I'm going to be optimistic, not pessimistic," and you said you thought you had a great car and were going to do well this weekend. You were looking at the glass half-full. Then you had a bad time in practice. Now, do you just feel that you do better if you look at things like they might not work out well?
MARK MARTIN: You know, optimism doesn't get results, you know. I'm not a pessimist by any stretch of the imagination whatsoever. Anybody that knows me knows I'm not a pessimist. But certainly there are guys that say they are going to win every single time they go out on the racetrack and they don't, and that would disappoint me. I'm embarrassed that I expected to have a chance to win at Martinsville and didn't, because I said I did. So next time maybe I'll just keep my mouth shut. But I am not a pessimist by any means. It's ridiculous for anybody to say that. But I am a lot more realistic than some people. I know that I have a great team and great cars and a great opportunity and, you know, we're having the year of my career. But at the same time, you know, I can't expect to have everything go my way every time I step out on the racetrack.
Q. I appreciate you doing that. I promised I'd ask those questions, and you defined it clearly. Thank you.
MARK MARTIN: Thank you.
Q. I'm wondering if you can sort of just go through the protocol sometimes on the track. We heard a lot about Greg Biffle racing with Tony Stewart. I don't necessarily think you probably want to comment on that one directly, but what is the protocol when a driver is in that situation, he's racing for a championship, he's trying to stay on the lead lap, is it okay for him to continue to race hard, or is what he should do is let the guy who's leading the race pass him?
MARK MARTIN: It's up to the guys. It's up to every individual to do whatever they think is right. Over a period of time, you know, you typically develop a pattern, and everyone gets to know that pattern and knows what to expect usually from people over a period of time. That's the way it goes. The way you conduct yourself on that racetrack is largely up to you.
Q. So are you saying by a "pattern" then, that given your reputation, sometimes it's okay to race hard like that and sometimes it's not? I don't know. I guess from my perspective, and I think from a lot of people's perspective, they look at it and say, "Okay, the guy is trying to stay in the lead lap, what's wrong with that"?
MARK MARTIN: Because that's only one guy. That's being a benefit to that guy, but what is he doing to the other guy? There's other people that are, you know, hurt by that. So you have to weigh all that out.
Q. Thanks, Mark.
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, I mean, you just have to weigh it out.
Q. I wanted to ask you, you had three of your four runner-up finishes in Atlanta. I wondered if you have any memories when you go back there from those finishes.
MARK MARTIN: Of what now?
Q. Three of your runner-up finishes in the Cup. The last race was in Atlanta. I wonder if you could reflect on some of those times, and do you think about those when you go back to Atlanta?
MARK MARTIN: No, never crosses my mind. I don't even know what you're talking about there (laughing). No, never even crossed my mind. That's the way the schedule was back then, and now it's different. You know, for ever the last race was Atlanta. Whether we finished second or we finished third or wherever it was, you know... So I really don't have any -- that's not what I think about, you know. I think about how we're going to run better next time we go than what we did 10 years ago or something, you know.
Q. Also, this past Daytona when you were at your shop talking about you were pretty resigned to this being your last year, and following through with that, when you knew that you were going to come back next year, is it difficult to get yourself reinvigorated for that at all?
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, it is. I mean, that's a good question for you to ask, but it's a difficult one for me to answer because I'm just -- the way I'm dealing with it is not dealing with it. I'm just not dealing with 2006. 2005 has been overwhelming. I've had the laser focus this year, and my team has. We've worked incredibly hard. This is the hardest 10-race stretch that I've ever done in my entire lifetime with all the testing and the schedule and everything that's going on. So, you know, I'm not really going to deal with 2006 until we get past the banquet in New York and then I'll start, you know, trying to decide how it is. I'm going to position things in my mind so that I'm at peace and so that I'm ready to take on 2006 with the same kind of enthusiasm that I did 2005. But I've got to get the banquet behind me.
Q. Talk about your sponsorship over the years with Viagra being the main sponsor. What have you seen throughout your travels in the country as to what that's done to promote men's health?
MARK MARTIN: Well, we have done, together with Pfizer, we've done a lot of men's health awareness. Pfizer has given over 100,000 free health screenings at the racetrack to fans, for example. In some cases these guys found out that they had some kind of condition that they needed to go see a doctor about and possibly get treated for or whatever. It's been something that I would consider very important work that I've done over the past six years with them. They've been an awesome sponsor, and the cause that we have worked on has been a very important cause. I've been proud to have had the opportunity to work on it with them.
Q. As far as your personal workout, how has that evolved or changed over the last several years?
MARK MARTIN: It hasn't changed very much. I mean, it's been -- it's going on about 18 years now. And I'm older, 18 years older -- or 15 years older than I was 15 years ago. So I tailor my workout to benefit my age and my body type now maybe different than I did 15 years ago. But for the most part the commitment's the same and the effort's the same. I was in there at 20 minutes after 5 this morning.
Q. Mark, I'm sorry if you've addressed this a lot before, but I'm wondering what your philosophy is on letting a teammate lead a lap for the bonus points, particularly down the stretch of the season.
MARK MARTIN: I think it's every -- I think I would have to say it would be specific to each individual. You wouldn't let someone who wasn't your teammate lead a lap unless you liked them and you thought that they would do the same for you - and that's always been that way. Now that there are multiple teammates or whatever, you sort of have to do the same thing. You need to look at it and say, "Yes, I will, because he would," or, "No, I wouldn't, because he wouldn't." It's pretty much straightforward.
Q. Okay. And at Roush Racing, that's something that's left to the prerogative of the driver behind the wheel?
MARK MARTIN: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I've got four teammates in the Chase, and I have different deals with different drivers. All the deals aren't exactly the same.
Q. Yeah, yeah. And that just evolves kind of based on the way they evolve, I assume, or things naturally unfold on the track, or do you actually sit down and have a conversation about it?
MARK MARTIN: Well, we've had a conversation, you know, after Kansas. I've had a conversation with each one since Kansas because we didn't have one before. Everyone needed to understand what the deal was, you know, so that someone didn't give something up that wasn't going to be able to get back. And those are just rare occasions anyway. I mean, an occasion doesn't arise that often. But once in a while, it does. I've got a great relationship with each one of these guys, and we pretty much have an understanding of what we really want to do.
Q. And that's clear in your mind before a race starts; it's not something you're making up on the spot? You know where you stand?
MARK MARTIN: I pretty much, you know -- I pretty much know where I stand with every driver out there. You know, I would let a number of drivers lead a lap if I could, if they ask. It wouldn't matter to me who owned their cars or what. I have a great relationship with a lot of them, and I know where I stand with most of them. It's not only with teammates. I mean, there are other -- there's 43 guys out there. Everyone, we race against each other every week, and we know each other. There's guys you would do it for, and there's guys that you wouldn't.
Q. I have a fan question. You were chosen as a favorite driver because you didn't bad-mouth the other drivers. His question to you was how difficult was it for you to not bad-mouth some drivers over the years?
MARK MARTIN: Probably the hardest -- one of the hardest -- you know, there was a recent event this year that happened that was just almost -- the urge was almost uncontrollable. I just -- I thought about it long and hard, and I really, really, really, really wanted to, and I didn't. And I am sure glad I didn't. But I thought about it (laughing).
Q. Mark, I want to go back to the loyalty thing that I brought up at the beginning of the interview.
MARK MARTIN: Okay.
Q. In other sports there are coaches and teammates that seem to have that way of knowing psychologically when to pat someone on the back and when they need to - I don't want to say "get stern" - but let their feelings be known. Do you think that's one of the reasons why your guys are so loyal, is because you know psychologically where that line is?
MARK MARTIN: I don't think that I'm that good, you know, with that. I understand what you're -- I understand your question there. I'm not that good with people. I think it's more of the example that I set. I get frustrated like other people. Believe it or not, though a lot of people, a lot of the fans don't see my frustration, I do get frustrated. When I get frustrated, I'm like anyone else. I don't function quite the same when I'm frustrated as when I'm not. So I do give those guys respect, and I appreciate them. I let them know how much, you know, their commitment means to me and all those kinds of things. I try to give them positive reinforcement, and I try to give them credit for what they do and how great they are. The rest of it, you'd have to ask them. I'm not sure, you know, where the rest of it comes from. But one of the greatest honors I've had is my team staying together for 2005 because we had such a great season in 2004, and our camp was raided and people were trying to steal our guys. These guys stayed because I asked them to stay and because they thought that we could, you know, contend for this championship once again. They did that for me, first. I feel like they did it for me. They may have done it for themselves, but I say they did it for me, and I choose to believe that they did it for me and that's why I love them.
Q. And, finally, how much of your racing game over the years does your mentality of approaching a race play into it compared to how you drive the car?
MARK MARTIN: You know, it may be all the same. See, I believe that -- I try to deal with everything in reality and I try to look at every competition, you know, with a realistic expectation, which the expectation is 100% - no limitations, no questions, 100% effort, everything that you have. I kind of expect that of everyone, you know, that works with me as well. When we go into an event, that's what I expect. I don't expect a great result; I expect the result to be what it is, you know. My expectation, though, is the effort. I'm pretty demanding in the effort department, but the results, I just try to accept. I've been disappointed a lot in my career, and I try to accept the result on whatever it is, like the day that you led the most laps and no one could touch you and a dollar part broke and you wound up in the garage before the race is over. You can't let that tear you apart. You have to be strong enough to say, "We'll get'em next week." Even sometimes when you know your car might not be that good next week, you still have to say, "We'll get'em next week."
Q. Since you demand so much of yourself and you demand so much of others on the team, would you work for you?
MARK MARTIN: Yes, I would. I feel like I'm -- yeah, I feel like I'm a good guy. I really treat these guys with respect. The only way that you'll get crossed up with me is not with your limitations but with your lack of effort. That will cause major problems. But if you have limitations, you're okay with me as long as you're digging as hard as you can dig, you know. Those are my kind of people. I've been fortunate the last two years, I've had a whole group of people that have very little limitations and incredible drive and determination and will to work.
Q. I've got a question kind of following up on personnel. There's no doubt that having a strong team is what's going to make the difference these days with the cars being so much alike. It used to be a driver could do a lot with a car, but now it seems that Pit Road seems to make the difference. What does it feel like to you when guys do turn their back, when you do kind of have guys leaving the floor, and what advice can you give Matt Kenseth? It seems like he's going to lose quite a few people this year as well.
MARK MARTIN: Well, Matt will rebound well. Robbie has an incredible talent for picking the people who are able to rise to the occasion rather than going out and robbing folks, you know, that are already getting the job done. That's one of Robbie's strong suits. So those guys will recover. But it is very disappointing at the same time. That is the order of business today in Nextel Cup racing. We need a guy -- every race team out there looks around and says, "We need a guy, we'll just go pay, we'll just go hire, whatever it takes to get him from whoever." That's what they do instead of growing people, you know, giving them an opportunity and letting them move up and learn and stuff. That's one of the great things about Roush Racing. There's not a lot of people at Roush Racing that have been robbed from other teams, you know. They're people who wanted to do it and hadn't done it before and had a chance to work their way up. That's part of the business, and it's a tough part. But, you know, I survived all these years with people running at our people, and Matt certainly will survive, you know, his winter here, too, and come back strong once again. That's what real champions do.
Q. Could salary caps end some of the thievery that goes on between the pit crews? You do have so much invested in them. People certainly have reputations as far as who pays the most, has the best benefits. But at some point do you see salary caps coming into play?
MARK MARTIN: I don't really. It's a great theory until you start trying to make it work. Once you start trying to make it work, it's very complicated. I don't think that it would be the answer to the problem. We've just got to keep on working. That's the nature of the business right now, and you just got to keep your head down and keep digging and keep looking for new talent. In a big organization like Roush Racing we have the opportunity to grow these people through the Truck Series and up through the Busch and in the Cup. That's a benefit for us.
Q. Mark, how about being on the October 21st episode of the "Guiding Light"? There's a lot of e-mails from people saying they never expected to see guys like you and Carl Edwards on their soap.
MARK MARTIN: I know. We didn't know about it until the night before we were on. Carl and I found out, you know, when we were up there in New York that that's what they had on the agenda for us. NASCAR and Nextel had it on the agenda for us the next day, and it was fun.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about shooting it. Did you have any reaction to it? Did you watch the episode?
MARK MARTIN: I hadn't seen the episode. They wrote us right into the script. Everybody was wonderful. It was a fun experience for me, and I'm sure it was for Carl as well to see the other side of the camera like that, you know. It was pretty neat. It was neat to see those people. They treated us, you know, with respect and wrote us right into the script. So it was pretty cool.
Q. Can you talk about the bumping and grinding that's been going on lately. The Chase is essentially a playoff, right, so it's kind of like any other sports - the intensity goes up, people hit a little harder. Now do you think this is a good thing, a bad thing?
MARK MARTIN: I'm not sure that I've seen any, you know, additional contact based on the Chase. There's some very intense racing that we're doing, and it's very competitive, and we have problems. Right now if there's a problem on the racetrack, everybody in the world knows about it because of the coverage. I don't really see things that much different than they've been in the past.
Q. So you think it's just magnified because of the increased exposure and popularity of NASCAR?
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, and the increased competition, you know, more cars running, more cars the same speed. Those kinds of things are -- cars don't fall out anymore unless they get wrecked real bad. You know, there used to be a lot of attrition and half the cars running at the end of a race or something, and you don't have that much anymore. So you're going to have a little bit more scrapes out there.
DAN PASSE: All right, Mark. Thank you very much for joining us. Good luck this week in Atlanta. Thank you, everybody, for your participation.
MARK MARTIN: Thanks, guys.
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